Believe it or not, the 2020 session has officially adjourned. The 60-day sprint to the finish line was full of ups and downs, but I want to mainly focus on the good news. However, before I get into the session recap, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you one more time.
I cannot represent you in Olympia without hearing your voice. So, thank you for meeting with me, calling me, and for sending me so many emails to share your input. Thank you for filling out my survey and thank you for coming to our town hall meeting in Shelton. It's truly my honor to serve you and be your voice in the state Legislature.
As you know, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is becoming a major issue. Although, we continue to discourage fear and panic, we are aware of the seriousness of this virus and its implications. This is touching every aspect of our lives, but we must be proactive to stay on top of the situation.
Here's what we've been doing in the Legislature. The House and Senate have passed a bill that would direct $200 million from the state's reserves to fight the outbreak. It just needs the governor's signature to become law.
As the number of cases continues to climb, there is increased awareness and concern. If you have questions, you can call the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
You can also stay up to date by following them online at the various websites and social media channels below:
Additionally, many people are concerned about the effects the virus will have on their employment. The Employment Security Department website has several helpful resources for people who might lose their jobs due to the coronavirus. Additionally, efforts are being made to decrease the delay time between losing your job and receiving unemployment benefits.
Lastly, please remember to be diligent and vigilant to stay safe and healthy. The best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands regularly, avoid large crowds and others who are sick, and limit touching your face. We want to get through this, and we want everyone to stay healthy.
Sponsored Bills Waiting to Become Law
So, let's talk about some legislation. I sponsored several bills this session aimed at making Washington a better place for everyone. Of course, I would've liked to see all of my bills make it to the governor's desk for his signature. However, there are always wins and losses, and this session was no different. Two of my bills did make it to the governor and an important addition to the budget was also accepted.
One of the bills I was most excited about this session was House Bill 2783. So, I was very pleased when it passed out of the House 95-2 and then unanimously passed the Senate. Imagine working all day only to find out when it's time to go home, you don't have enough fuel. If you stop at the gas station it's going to cost you at least another 20 minutes just to get off the road, fill your tank, and get back onto the freeway.
On-demand mobile fuel trucks offer a valuable service for anyone who doesn't have time to stop at a gas station, or for someone who gets stranded with an empty tank. You waste less time fueling your vehicle and spend more time with your family. This service already exists but it's new to Washington. If the governor signs this bill, it will officially become law, 90 days after session ends.
I'm also happy to report that House Bill 2889 is now on the governor's desk, as well, after passing the House 97-1 and the Senate unanimously. You would think if you paid a utility bill you would know the tax rate you're being charged. But that isn't necessarily the case.
That's why I sponsored this bill. It would require municipal utilities that charge a tax for operating a water, sewer or wastewater, or stormwater utility, to disclose the tax rate on the billing statements it provides to customers. If signed into law, it would also take effect 90 days after the session ends.
Stalled but Not Dead
Imagine if you owned a store and someone was clearly trying to steal bags full of merchandise. You would want to prevent that from happening, right? Well, current law says there's nothing you can do to stop that person until they leave the store.
That's why I sponsored House Bill 1159, which would change the definition of theft by making concealment a crime. Unfortunately, this bill was never considered on the House floor, despite plenty of support from both sides. You can read more about it in my op-ed that appeared in the Seattle Times. Shoplifting is hurting our retailers, and to make up for lost revenue they pass the cost on to you. This policy is a no-brainer, and I plan to keep fighting for this piece of legislation.
New Helmets Are Coming
One of my main focuses this session was not even a bill. I submitted a request for funds from the operating budget to help pay for helmets for skateboarders and bike riders. I asked for $20,000 in each of the next two years so law enforcement agencies and fire stations can provide helmets to people who they've caught riding without a helmet. Instead of citing them, they want to educate riders and encourage them to wear protective gear.
I'm so excited to report that this request was included in the final supplemental budget. I'm passionate about this issue. Too many kids are getting seriously injured because they aren't using helmets. This money will go a long way in the effort to change that, but there's more to do.
That's why I'll continue working with several parties to educate kids and encourage them to wear helmets. We've got to reduce traumatic brain injuries throughout the state.
Bad Majority Bills
The majority party introduced numerous bills this session that would hurt our state. Fortunately, we were able to prevent many of these from advancing. However, it wasn't all good news. When you're the minority there's only so much you can do. Here are some of the lowlights.
As with any session, we had to approve budgets this year. While work on both the transportation and capital budgets was mostly smooth – thanks to cooperative bipartisan efforts – the same can't be said for the operating budget.
As much as Republicans would've liked to participate, we were left out of the budget planning process. As you might suspect, this budget has some flaws. Our state economy is thriving. According to the most recent state revenue forecast, our state will have a $2.4 billion budget surplus this year.
That means we have a lot more money to work with than expected. However, because of the coronavirus and the uncertainty of the impact it will have on our economy, now is the time to be very cautious with our surplus. We should be looking for ways to save and invest.
We have hit that “rainy day” we always talk about. Unfortunately, the majority party's final budget calls for spending more than $1.5 billion of that surplus.
Despite several good amendments offered by Republicans, the majority party rejected them all. Furthermore, they offered NO tax relief to working families in Washington, NO $30 car tabs, and NO additional savings for a rainy day. This is the exact scenario that could lead to additional tax hikes next year if our economy takes a big hit from the coronavirus, or anything else.
This is the kind of irresponsible spending we need to stop.
Sex Education in Schools
Unless you've been out of the country, then you've surely already heard about the controversial comprehensive sex education bill (Senate Bill 5395) passed by the majority party. This is one of the most hotly contested bills we've ever debated in the Legislature.
Hundreds of parents, teachers, and concerned citizens showed up in Olympia to speak against this bill. Thousands more called or emailed to express opposition. The majority part still chose to pass this bill and rejected 29 Republican amendments during the debate. Here's some more information and facts about this bill.
B&O Tax to Fund College Tuition
We all agree that attending college is a good idea, and every student in Washington who wants to pursue higher education should be able to. However, how we fund that is up for debate. Last year, the majority party passed legislation to create a college scholarship fund so low-income individuals could attend college free of charge. However, that bill didn't generate enough for the demand. So this year, Senate Bill 6492 was introduced to “fix” that shortfall.
Republicans fought this bill as hard as we could. We introduced numerous amendments and debated for several hours against it. However, in the end, this bill passed both chambers and has been signed into law by the governor. This new law increases the number of taxable industries and the overall revenue collected. Ultimately, this law will hurt businesses and working families and individuals in Washington.
Stay Up to Date with Me in Olympia
Session is over, but you can still stay up to date with what's happening in Olympia. Here are some great resources:
- RepresentativeDanGriffey.com – you can keep up with me and my legislative priorities and check in regularly for my email updates, news releases, and bills I've sponsored.
- www.leg.wa.gov – you can also track legislation, get bill reports, view committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature.
- The Ledger – this daily informative and comprehensive news aggregator is the House Republican Caucus's latest tool to keep you in tune with everything going on in Olympia and throughout the entire state.
- Capitol Buzz – this daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- TVW.org – tune into TVW, Washington's own version of C-SPAN. If you missed any floor action you want to catch up on, this is the place.
Keep in Touch
Just because we've entered the interim, that doesn't mean you can't get in touch with me. It's never too late to make your voice heard. So, if you'd like to meet with me, please contact my legislative assistant, Amber Oliver at (360) 786-7966 or email me at Dan.Griffey@leg.wa.gov.
It's an honor to serve you!